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What is Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is an infection that stems from the Group A Streptococcus (“strep”) bacteria. One of its hallmark signs is a rash with a texture resembling sandpaper, accompanied by other related symptoms. This condition typically follows a strep infection in the throat, commonly known as strep pharyngitis or strep throat, although it can also occur after a strep skin infection. The rash observed in scarlet fever is a result of a toxin produced by the strep bacteria.

In the past, scarlet fever used to be prevalent among children aged 2 to 10; however, it has become relatively uncommon nowadays. The reasons for this shift remain unknown, particularly considering that there hasn’t been a decrease in the incidence of strep throat or strep skin infections.


What are the signs and symptoms of Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is typically set off by an infection in the throat caused by strep bacteria. This leads to the emergence of the following symptoms:

  • Fever and shivering
  • Headache
  • Throat that is red and painful
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Lymph nodes in the neck that are swollen (often called “swollen glands”)

Around 12 to 48 hours after these symptoms manifest, the characteristic rash of scarlet fever begins. This rash is vividly red, akin to sunburn, and it frequently possesses a delicate texture resembling sandpaper or goosebumps. Initially, it tends to appear in areas like the underarms, groin, and neck, subsequently spreading to the torso, back, arms, and legs. Additional symptoms of scarlet fever encompass:

  • A lightened area encircling the mouth
  • A white-coated tongue with red dots (referred to as white strawberry tongue)
  • A red strawberry tongue or raspberry tongue, which arises when the white coating on the tongue sheds and reveals a red surface with red dots
  • Darkened or reddened skin creases, particularly noticeable in the elbow’s bend, referred to as Pastia’s lines

Occasionally, scarlet fever follows a skin infection caused by streptococcus bacteria, such as infections in burns, wounds, or impetigo. In these instances, the rash and associated skin symptoms materialize, but there are no concurrent symptoms linked to strep throat.

What are the causes of Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is caused by a type of bacteria called Group A streptococcus (Group A strep), which can also cause strep throat. Sometimes, the bacteria produce a toxin that makes the skin turn red and bumpy. This is what causes the rash of scarlet feverScarlet fever is contagious and can spread through contact with an infected person or their respiratory droplets.

FAQ About Scarlet Fever

How is scarlet fever transmitted?

Scarlet fever is highly contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes of an infected person. It can also be contracted by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the bacteria.

How is scarlet fever spread?

Scarlet fever is spread by contact with an infected person or their respiratory droplets. 

Is scarlet fever contagious?

Yes, scarlet fever is contagious. It can spread from person to person until 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

Is there a dermatologist near me in Chesapeake that offers treatment for Scarlet Fever?

Yes. At our Chesapeake dermatology office we offer treatment for Scarlet Fever to patients from Chesapeake and the surrounding area. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.